Kim Kardashian has a new boo: Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson. There is no way you don’t know this already, because it’s the only celebrity news that’s mattered for the last five months. After the two shared a kiss in an October SNL sketch, Kardashian and Davidson’s relationship blossomed into something unscripted—and, thanks to their cumulative star wattage, peak celebrity gossip fodder. These developments are unsurprising; rich and famous people date all the time, and our cultural aspiration to one day be said people makes their relationships extra exciting. In Davidson and Kardashian’s case, the paparazzi photos and date updates are even quaint: They saw Spider-Man together! She spent the night at his place on Staten Island! They went to Knott’s Berry Farm for Halloween!
Kardashian’s ex-husband, himself a notably caustic rumor-mill mainstay, has added a complicated wrinkle to the story, however. “Complicated wrinkle,” in fact, doesn’t quite capture the scope and tenor of the biggest news out of Davidson and Kardashian’s coupling. Headlines are predominantly focusing on how Kardashian’s former partner is harassing both her and Davidson in escalating, public ways—rendering her marriage an inescapable third party in what should be the latest fun celeb pair to gawk at. It’s his name that is exhaustingly overshadowing theirs in this discourse; it’s his name that should be kept out of Pete and Kim’s honeymoon period. It’s his name that I’d like to take a break from saying for once.
Here’s why: On Instagram and Twitter, and even during live music events, Davidson has become the target of mockery and, most recently, threats for daring to date a newly single, incredibly successful woman. (As is his wont: Pete almost married Ariana, remember?) The jealousy on display—Kardashian’s ex has made numerous posts about Davidson, dubbing him “Skete,” accusing the actor of “destroying his family,” and encouraging his millions of followers to “scream at [the loser]” if they ever see him in public—is probably not unfamiliar to anyone who’s had a toxic breakup. But it’s compounded by how famous everyone involved is, and by the specter of mental health that floats above everything that’s going on.
Davidson has talked openly about his struggles with addiction and borderline personality disorder, while Kardashian experienced PTSD after a robbery in her Paris hotel room. The condition referenced the most amid this breakup drama is bipolar disorder, which Kardashian’s former spouse received a diagnosis of. Now many seem to see it as an excuse for forgiving, even sympathizing with him during his public meltdown over his ex-wife’s new boo.
Outlets have phoned psychologists who say that bipolar disorder can conjure erratic behaviors and that society should be understanding of that; a Netflix documentary about him, released in mid-February, reignited interest in Kardashian’s ex’s music and pity over his mental deterioration. Which are not unwarranted feelings, to be clear: Mental health certainly plays a large role here. Rumors about his emotional state date as far back as 2016, when he was hospitalized for a “psychiatric emergency” during his tour. His 2018 album, Ye, came with an admission on the cover: “I hate being Bi-Polar/ It’s awesome.” By 2019, he was talking about how his hospital stay had been involuntary and that he had been on medication for his diagnosis for the last three years. Discussions of his adherence—or lack thereof—to a medication regimen followed from then on. If the rapper ranted about something in public, the mainstream reaction would be to dismiss it as him being “off his meds.” (Even Davidson made a joke about this in a 2018 “Weekend Update” bit, way before he was on Kim’s radar.) But over the years, the language around discussing his health and his behavior has evolved, prompting a reassessment of how to talk about a man whose behavior is, at times, undoubtedly affected by his mental state.
But Davidson’s own mental health has been ignored in the conversation in favor of his bully’s diagnoses. And worse, Kardashian’s social media pleas for privacy and resolution in the face of her marriage’s implosion have gone unheeded. It’s Kardashian, the now-single mother of four children, who is the one deserving of anyone’s pity in this love triangle.* The harassment of her new boyfriend on the basis of almost nothing but being her new boyfriend implies that any man Kardashian dates will be on the receiving end of verbal abuse, simply for dating her.
That’s hard on the guy. That’s hard on the kids. And that’s hard on the woman who wants to move on with her life. Wednesday morning, entertainment outlets giddily reported on Kardashian’s relationship status request finally going through—she’s officially single now, y’all. Hours later, her ex dropped a crudely produced, harrowing music video on Instagram for his latest single, “Eazy.” A collaboration with The Game, the song first received attention in January for its lyrics: “God saved me from that crash/ Just so I could beat Pete Davidson’s ass.” The “Eazy” video goes a step further than just beating Pete’s ass—by the end of the claymation, black-and-white clip, Davidson’s head sticks out of a dirt-filled casket. “And they all lived happily ever after,” reads a title card at the end. “Except for [Skete, crossed out, then:] you know who.” And then, quickly: “JK he’s fine.”
It’s extremely unlikely that the former Mr. Kardashian is going to bury Pete Davidson alive, as badly as his die-hard fans might like to see him try. But the video has received the negative backlash it deserves for its disturbing content and over-the-line message: not just “mess with the bull, you get the horns,” but “date my ex, you die.” The callouts on social media and from the same outlets that slobbered over the actress Julia Fox when she started dating Kardashian’s ex are acknowledging the dark undercurrent to this behavior. It’s an abusive, possessive relationship tactic that keeps women in relationships for longer than they should be in them, that traumatizes families, that leaves psychological scars. The fame and fortune of everyone involved doesn’t eliminate this reality, even if Kardashian’s uniquely privileged access to top-notch security and therapy can mitigate it.
Mental health is not just an explanation for Kardashian’s ex’s behavior; it’s also, more importantly, what’s at stake for the victims here. How do you explain to your kids that Daddy thinks it’s funny to animate himself murdering Mommy’s boyfriend? How do you forgive or forget about that? How do you reconcile it with the Daddy you had when your parents were still together, or the one who promises to take you to the Super Bowl when he’s done judging your TikToks and cursing out the guy your Mommy wants you to like?
There aren’t easy answers or guidance for these questions, especially when the mind is involved. But Kim Kardashian dating Pete Davidson is not the kind of relationship that should leave anyone with long-lasting emotional scars. The sad thing is, because of the unchecked toxicity that continues to swell on social media to the delight of millions and disgust of just as many, it very well might.
Correction, March 4, 2022: This piece originally misstated that Kim Kardashian has five children. She has four.